Government & Politics

Updated: Cruz easily wins Kansas Republican caucuses; Sanders takes Democratic side

Republicans wait to vote in caucus

Voters lined up for Saturday's Republican caucus at Shawnee Mission West High School.
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Voters lined up for Saturday's Republican caucus at Shawnee Mission West High School.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas captured the Kansas Republican caucuses Saturday, outpacing businessman Donald Trump by a wide margin.

In the Democratic race, party officials declared Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont the winner over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with 90 percent of caucuses reporting in the Sunflower State.

“People used to ask, ‘What’s the matter with Kansas?’” Sanders said in a statement from his campaign. “It turns out that there’s nothing the matter with Kansas when you give people a clear choice and involve them in the democratic process.”

The Kansas Democratic party did not provide a vote total before declaring Sanders the victor, so his margin over Clinton wasn’t known.

With all the GOP votes counted, Cruz had 48 percent. Trump was second with 23 percent, followed by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 17 percent. Ohio Gov. John Kasich finished fourth with 11 percent.

“God bless Kansas!” Cruz exulted at a rally in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which votes on Tuesday. “What we’re seeing is the public coming together, libertarians coming together, men and women who love the Constitution coming together and uniting and standing as one behind this campaign.”

Analysts said the Kansas caucuses were the most competitive presidential contests in the nation Saturday.

Democrats opened their sites at 1 p.m. and started counting votes at 3 p.m.

With fewer caucus sites than Republicans, lines for the Democrats were long. A line to get into a caucus in Roeland Park, for instance, snaked through a neighborhood for at least a quarter-mile when organizers told anyone who arrived after 3 p.m. they were out of luck.

The turnout of 40,000 Democrats exceeded the turnout in 2008, the party said Saturday. Clinton lost to Barack Obama in that caucus.

Republicans opened their caucuses at 10 a.m., with balloting ending at 2 p.m. The wait easily exceeded two hours at some sites in Johnson County, with similar waits reported at other caucuses.

At the Shawnee Mission South caucus site, GOP officials ran out of printed ballots. Votes were cast on note cards.

“Shawnee, Sedgwick and Johnson Counties have seen extremely long lines and voters are being processed as rapidly as possible,” said GOP chairman Kelly Arnold in a statement Saturday afternoon. “We are shifting resources to assist those locations.”

Arnold said anyone in line at 2 p.m. would still be allowed to cast a ballot.

“I don’t mind at all,” said Syd Taylor of Prairie Village as he waited in line. “I want to to hear what other people have to stay.” He said he planned to cast his ballot for Kasich.

The party opened caucuses at more than 100 sites across Kansas, and one in St. Louis, where Wichita State basketball fans gathered for a tournament. State GOP officials said 600 voters cast ballots in the city.

Many Republican voters sharply criticized the nasty tone of the campaign.

“It’s the most disgusting campaign I’ve ever seen,” said Debra Miner of Overland Park, who planned to vote for Trump. “I know it can get bad, but this is far beyond that. All of them.”

Kansas Republican voters discuss their choices on caucus day.

Trump held a rally at a Wichita caucus site Saturday morning before the voting began. “We’re no longer going to be the stupid country,” he told a raucous crowd gathered for the speech.

Cruz came to Wichita for a rally at the same site about an hour later. Rubio barnstormed Kansas on Friday, ending his day in packed ballroom in Overland Park.

The presence of all three Republican candidates in the closing hours of the caucus season suggested strategists believed the state was in play. Instead, Cruz won it in a romp. Trump canceled a planned speech at a conservative conference in Washington, D.C., to campaign in the state.

Forty convention delegates will be proportionally awarded on the basis of the caucus results.

Republicans also are holding caucuses Saturday in Maine and Kentucky, while Democrats also are caucusing in Nebraska. Louisiana was holding a presidential primary in both parties.

Although the competition between Clinton and Sanders has been pitched, Democrats in Johnson County mostly talked as though they’d be happy with either candidate.

“I love Bernie Sanders, too,” said Jean Nicholls of Fairway. “I just think (Clinton is) the only one who can beat a Republican.”

Ayana Curran-Howes was the last one allowed in line for the Roeland Park caucus. That meant one last vote for Sanders.

“I feel like he takes climate change seriously and that’s a very important issue for me,” said the college student from Overland Park. “Hillary plays the game a little more like a traditional politician.”

The Star’s Scott Canon and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Lines were long at some Kansas caucus sites Saturday.

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